The Integrative Health Business: ‘Administrators’ Versus ‘Builders’

I often see integrative and functional medicine business and organization leaders smothered from the weight of managing day-to-day operations: process and repetitive tasks allow neither adequate time nor sufficient resources to deal with strategic business development and execution.

Rare are the super-competent administrators or business owners who are as savvy and productive in the areas of business development and growth as they are at keeping the ship moving… from a purely operational standpoint.

Yes, it’s vital for operations and processes to be well-oiled and fine-tuned. But what good is this if there is a lack of vision, focus, and investment in that which points to sustainable growth and ‘revenue in’? Those being: core facets of marketing, communications, community engagement, and strategic partnerships, all which are imperative baseline activities.

It starts with an organization’s mission, vision, and ethos aligning with its brand and various platform elements.

But what if your integrative health entity is coasting without having all this stuff buttoned up?

You may have a rock-solid clinical delivery process, and/or amazing quality-directed products, and deliver programs or services uniquely differentiated from all other competitors—but will this alone guarantee success?

Outside of word-of-mouth referrals, the answer is no—or not for long. Certainly not indefinitely.

In order to create a funnel that reliably brings new customers into the fold, your business and its platform—digital, brick and mortar—must be designed to consistently engage and convert, both online and offline, and across all channels. This means the organic ones: social media, word-of-mouth, search engines; and paid ones:  AdWords/search, Facebook ads, print ads, sponsorships.

Effective marketing requires a lot of effort.  Technology is evolving fast. And so are your competitors.  

If you or the person you have placed into an operational role has solid operational chops, that’s terrific; it’s critical to the success of the enterprise.

However, if this person has neither the bandwidth or skillset, nor the experience, to ensure the sustainable growth of your brand—or to properly manage this process with internal or outside resources—your revenues, at best, will eventually fall flat.

What I see all too often—the core reason I am brought in to consult to integrative health businesses—is not enough attention invested in business development strategy and execution, either prior to launch or as an enterprise or organization matures…

Or strategy, at some level, is devised, but not properly resourced, and without a single person given ‘ownership’ and responsibility of day-to-day business development—compounded by poor or inconsistent execution along the way…

Or the efforts were not measured in terms of ROI. In some situations, the agreed-upon strategy was not adequately resourced (fiscal and/or human)…

Or a business model that didn’t get traction and then failed to evolve quickly enough to adjust to market need and demands, therefore not gaining trust from prospective customers—or enough customers—to support and grow the enterprise.

Often it is a combination of these reasons. 

One common problem, as previously mentioned, is that in addition to lacking a codified, overarching business development strategy—no one person is given ownership, with the appropriate oversight, measurement tools, and clearly communicated key performance indicators.

Connecting Sales and Marketing

When companies have a sales team, but the sales department does not align with marketing, or marketing is absorbed into the sales department, this is almost always problematic.

It is the job of marketing to create an environment that best supports the sales process. When this does not happen, or simply does not exist, sales inefficiency ensues. These separate but critically connected roles must work together harmoniously in order to consistently drive new client engagement and revenue.

Inherent Limitations of Small Businesses and Organizations

Integrative health businesses and organizations have to start somewhere. I get it that your enterprise may be just you, or a totally bootstrapped team of two, or three. However, it is no longer enough to simply focus on amazing customer service, products, and/or distribution; you must be also be savvy, agile and forward-leaning in all areas of marketing, messaging, and advertising.

Regardless if you are a small private clinic, a non-profit 501 (3) organization, a service or product manufacturer, or a subsidiary or service line of a larger organization, you must push beyond the daily operations grind to leverage and maximize your resources in service of ongoing brand and business development.

Takeaways

  • High-quality products and services, tight operations, and outstanding customer service are imperative… but without ongoing investment in business development, including marketing and technology, it’s only a matter of time before your enterprise or organization sputters or fails.
  • Sales and marketing are not one and the same and should be separate roles (if staff numbers allow), but must be intrinsically goal-connected in order to work together harmoniously.
  • Take personal ownership of your business development strategy and execution, or pass the baton to a trusted colleague who can take the lead on all things ‘revenue in’.

investing in Your Integrative Health BrandAbout Glenn Sabin and FON / Glenn is director of FON Consulting, a leading strategy and business development consultancy specializing in the integrative health and medicine sector. FON’s clients span from medical practices, hospitals and health systems, to nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and media companies. Glenn brings economic and moral clarity to the misnomer that health creation and promotion cannot align with profitability.
Prior to launching FON in 2009, Glenn was the CEO of JazzTimes, Inc., an entertainment-based media and marketing agency headquartered in the Washington, DC metro area.  After a 25 year tenure, and achieving exponential revenue growth, Glenn exited JazzTimes, Inc. to launch FON.
The shift from entertainment media to integrative health. In 1991, Glenn Sabin was a 28-year-old newlywed diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), an incurable cancer. He created his own medically monitored and carefully researched lifestyle changes, including a whole foods predominantly plant-based diet. Glenn would conduct his own, informal, single patient clinical trial, which was chronicled by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and his personal oncologist Lee Nadler, MD, dean for clinical and translational medicine at Harvard Medical School. Glenn achieved a complete remission from CLL without conventional cancer treatment. His case is part of the medical literature.
Glenn is participating in, and advising Harvard’s Bioinformatics Department on its People-Powered Medicine NEER Study, an initiative investigating exceptional responders. He was the recipient of American College of Nutrition’s 2017 Communications and Media Award. In 2017 Glenn published his popular memoir, n of 1: One Man’s Harvard-Documented Remission of Incurable Cancer Using Only Natural Methods. www.fonconsulting.com, www.glennsabin.com